We choose for our first hike one of our favorites, the 3-3/4 to 4 hour trek from the last town in Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore, to Porto Venere. Although outside of Cinque Terre, the three villages and three islands that make up the comune of Porto Venere are also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the hike over to Porto Venere is beautiful, with great views of the sea all along the way.
We start by taking the train from Monterosso to Riomaggiore, a 17 minute ride for 1.8 euros ($2.03), with stops along the way in Vernazza, Corniglia, and Manarola.
Riomaggiore to Porto Venere is a challenging walk down the coast and it starts, as do most of these hikes, with up. About 350 meters (1150 feet) up, sometimes on steep paths, sometimes with stone stairs.
Starting the walk up to the top
The trail is no longer paved
As we approach the top, we reach the church overlooking Riomaggiore, Santuario di Nostra Signora di Montenero, a 14th century sanctuary and a great place to rest and admire the view below us.
Looking down on Riomaggiore with Monterosso in the distance
There used to be a park office with bikes and a museum, but now the area only has the views and one of the tractors that carry grapes over tracks that wind through the vineyards on the steep hills. Here’s Laura sitting in the tractor last year. This year, vandals had tipped it over and it was crashed on its side.
Laura in the tractor
From the Sanctuary, we continue up and the views get even more spectacular.
Along the trail, looking back toward Monterosso
As we hike along the trail, we see great views of the sea, both back toward Riomaggiore and Monterosso in the far distance and forward toward Porto Venere.
Along the trail, looking toward Porto Venere
Around the midpoint, we pass through the small town of Campiglia and note that the bar where we have had great sandwiches in the past is still closed. We were the only people in there when we stopped by a few years ago and our business was apparently not enough to keep it open.
Passing through Campiglia
We find our way by following the trail markers, red and white stripes on trees, rocks, and sign posts, just often enough to let us know we’re still on the right path.
After passing through Campiglia, we meet an Australian student who is studying in Vienna and is staying in one of the small towns just off the trail. We pass each other periodically as we each stop for photographs and talk about the trips he is planning to fill his spare time, hiking in Cinque Terre, hiking in the Alps, touring Europe, …
Finally, we reach the last section of loose rock leading down to Porto Venere, being very careful about where we put our feet, slipping every now and then.
Descending into Porto Venere over the loose rock
Looking towards Port Venere
As we get down into the city, we look back at the map of where we came from and where can go from here.
Trails from Porto Venere
But, seeking our reward, we walk along the waterfront until something looks interesting for lunch. We sit outside and share a frito misto, octopus salad and pizza with anchovies and tuna, along with a carafe of local white wine.
The Porto Venere waterfront
After lunch, we hop on the ferry back to Monterosso, with stops in the other Cinque Terre towns along the way. As the ferry cruises up the coast from town to town, we get great views of the trail along which we hiked.
View of Campiglia (on top) from the sea
As the ferry approaches Riomaggiore, we see Santuario di Nostra Signora di Montenero that we hiked up to at the start, up on top.
View of Santuario di Nostra Signora di Montenero (on top) from the sea
View of Riomaggiore from the sea
Train along the coast passing through the Manarola station, just above Riomaggiore
Back in Monterosso, we borrow a beach towel from Hotel Villa Steno and go down to the beach for a swim in the Mediterranean, where I get stung by a jellyfish. Laura thinks it was just getting me back for consuming so many of its octopus cousins!